Free Filming Locations and Other Favors

Many filmmakers limit opportunities based on misguided beliefs. In order to make a feature film, many of these Hollywood hopefuls set their sights on raising a gazillion dollars. But without a track record or a working understanding of how to connect the dots, many would-be filmmakers fall short.

I blame the gurus (the ones who never stepped on set) who tell you that in order to be a real filmmaker, you need to focus on a huge budget, A-list talent and secure foreign pre-sales.

I believe this advice is not only dated, but unrealistic… And it makes most would-be filmmakers lazy. Since I  can’t secure pre-sales, so I guess I can’t make my movie. Darn it! Whenever I give talks, I ask filmmakers to write down and answer the following question:

“Given the resources that I have right now, what is the movie I am going to make this year?”

Answering this question forces you to focus on what you have, versus what you do not have. And this focus is essential for actually taking action and making something (versus the many people who just talk.)

If you’re a first time feature filmmaker, you do not need a gazillion dollars to join the feature club. But you will need to learn how to replace money with ginormous creatively. And once your screenplay is complete, then the next step in the filmmaking process is your initial breakdown and schedule.

Free Filming Locations

With the application of tremendous creativity, it will be possible to reduce your movie budget significantly. Your goal is to find discounts such as free food, locations and gear. To get the process started, I suggest finding friends who own locations you can utilize for free. Reach out to acquaintances and find out if they have access to discounted equipment. Then rework your schedule and finish your movie faster.

One of my buddies employed these strategies and got lucky. He had a location budgeted for $5K. However, after my buddy spoke with the owner of the location, the fee was reduced to zero. How? My buddy (a creative producer) agreed to shoot a promo for the owner’s business. Another filmmaker friend got free food for his entire shoot simply by asking.

Remember, if you do not ask, you do not get!

If you liked these filmmaking tips (and you are serious about taking action, so you can make your movie now!) You may want to check out some of the professional filmmaking resources found here.

Refine Your Trailer

YouTube

Image via Wikipedia

Think back to a time in filmmaking history when your greatest challenge was actually making a movie. At least the idea seemed easier.

For those of you new to independent movie making, let’s review. In the past, many first time feature filmmakers were driven by something I call “The Sundance Model.”

This is the idea where filmmakers went out, acquired or wrote a screenplay, got money, made the movie and then hoped like heck they would get into a major festival and garner a significant (and profitable deal.)

From a pure business perspective, this was a crazy way to make movies. I mean, can you name one other industry in the world that produces a product without having a solid distribution channel in place?

Can you name another industry that, once the product is made, relies on other outside people for ALL of the marketing, sales and distribution of the product?

These days things are a bit different. These days DVD distribution is dying. And with this death, the days of relying on some outside distributor to validate your work and sell it are numbered.

The upside to this modern moviemaking movement is, you can finally put all those years of creative accounting and bad deals behind you. The bad news is, as an independent filmmaker, you are going to have to add yet another hat to your overflowing rack. This time, the hat you wear will be sales and marketing.

Now before you leave a gazillion comments telling me that foreign DVD territory sales and (even) pre-sales are alive and well – I provide this disclaimer. Consider any deal that makes sense. But in the event the deal only pays you validation and a copy of your DVD, hopefully this helps you create a more profitable plan.

I also want to caution both new as well as veteran filmmakers of the following: The day is fast approaching when DVD retail will eventually join VHS, CDs, Cassette Tapes, 8-Tracks and the silly stores that used to sell them  in the great abyss of a bygone era. And rightfully so!

So all of this said, if you’re just reading filmmaking stuff for the first time,welcome!

In this community we don’t over complicate the filmmaking process. We make movies and we work to sell our movies without asking permission. And in this respect, you are reading article 5 of my 7 step process for selling your your movie on iTunes, Amazon and Netflix for Maximum profit.

So to recap, once you have sharpened your hook (pt. 1)targeted your target audience (pt. 2)set up shop (pt. 3) and created a movie sales funnel (pt. 4) you are ready to begin the process of driving traffic to your movie sales site.

Refine Your Trailer (And Promote It)

Take a look at your trailer. Is your trailer congruent with your hook and the marketing elements we covered earlier? If not, I suggest you re-cut and refine your trailer to make sure your marketing message is consistent.

In doing this you will have to find the balance between showing enough to sell your movie and giving away so much that you spoil the story. And since your movie trailer will be posted on various websites, you should also add a title card with a link to your movie website.

The internet is full of places where you can upload and post your trailer. But out of all of them, YouTube is top-notch. Aside from being the second largest search engine on earth, the service also incorporates a built-in social networking component that allows people to comment and discuss your movie and create community around your title.

This is important because word-of-mouth indicates what people like and dislike about your movie. And as you will soon learn, more discussion (good or bad) equals more sales.

Since YouTube records the number of views, this is also a great indication of how well your trailer is being received. If viewership is low, refine your title, tags and description to complement your niche subject matter. Martial Arts Movie? One tag might be “Karate” or “Kung Fu.”

After tweaking and re-tweaking your description, if viewership is still stagnant, consider cutting, tweaking and testing multiple versions of your trailer. For more information on how to market and sell your movie, visit www.HowToSellYourMovie.com

Filmmaker Jason Brubaker Gets Punched Out By LA Producers Over Video On Demand Sales Projections

When I published my article on leveraging VOD sales to finance your movie, I had no idea that a simple internet marketing formula for filmmakers would be such a polarizing issue. I can’t tell you how many Los Angeles based movie producers responded negatively through email.

One guy even told me my grammar sucked.

So to clarify, I was not trying to ruffle any feathers. I was simply applying a standard internet marketing ROI formula to a product available through video on demand. Nothing more.

All of this was based on the premise that selling movies on the internet is no different than selling any other downloadable product (where you are lucky if you convert 1%)

This is based on experience. I learned how to market and sell movies on the internet when our first feature did not garner a traditional distribution deal and we ended up selling on Amazon. Back then I personally knew a bunch of filmmakers in a similar situation – all had titles but no deal. Since that time, even more filmmakers have flooded the market with titles. Couple this with the decline of various DVD sales channels, and suddenly a crappy $25 backyard indie can now share virtual self space with $25M movies.

For those of us who produce features without any sort of pre-sales, instead of telling prospective investors “If we are lucky, we might get into festivals and garner a distribution deal.” We can finally reach our audience without asking permission. And to me, this makes the indie movie business like any other small business… Produce a product and then market, sell and distribute your product.

This said, I totally agree with one of the readers who said my equation for returning a 1M dollar budget was preposterous. He was right. Anybody who thinks you can magically generate the mass amount of sales needed to recoup even a 1M dollar investment without a substantial outlay of cash towards advertising is mis-guided. Which is what those formulas reveal.

I wasn’t trying to present an indie movie panacea. We are all trying to find profit in business competing with (what I think is the indie movie equivalent) of sweat shop labor produced goods. So in terms of the person who said I’m trying to seduce “starry eyed producers,” I would say that finally having non-discriminatory VOD sales channels like Amazon, and especially iTunes finally gives us producers something to get excited about.

Whether or not we can find the marketing formula to justify our budgets remains the ongoing challenge. I for one am working my butt off to find the balance between budget and the amount of marketing needed to recoup the money – and hopefully create an ongoing stream of revenue.

My model of moviemaking isn’t for everyone. In fact, many of you have great relationships with distributors and are still making money in DVD and theatrical. Awesome! But if you are a filmmaker still relying on the “Sundance Dream” to recoup your budget – or if you are a filmmaker with a title collecting dust in your bedroom closet, I hope my article offered a little optimism.

At the same time, feel free to share your own thoughts on VOD distribution.

And spelling an grammatical tips are welcome from filmmakers too.